With summer right around the corner and temperatures on the rise, proper hydration should be at the forefront of every athlete, coach, and parent’s mind.
The human body is 70% water and proper hydration is vital to every physiological function. Dehydration, the harmful loss of water loss in the body, impairs everything from temperature regulation to your kidney and brain function, which culminates in poor overall health and athletic performance.
How to Track Hydration Levels
- Weight: Make a habit of weighing yourself before and after every practice or workout session. If you’ve lost more than 2% of your body weight during that workout, you are dehydrated to the point where it will impair your normal body functions. Strive to regain any weight you’ve lost through sweat prior to the next session.
- Urine Color: In a well hydrated person, their urine is clear or pale yellow, similar to lemonade. In a dehydrated person, the urine is dark yellow/gold like apple juice. Brown urine can be indicative of severe dehydration and kidney damage.
When To Drink
Do not wait until you are already thirsty. By the time you are thirsty you are already dehydrated. Make sure to drink:
- Before: Try to drink at least 16 oz of water prior to beginning activity. Morning workouts come early, but make it a point of getting up five minutes early to drink a bottle of water prior to practice since you’re already in a state of dehydration from sleeping for the past 8+ hours.
- During: Drink 4-6 oz for every 15-20 minutes of exercise. Remember 1 gulp = 1 oz.
- After: Drink 16-20 oz for every pound of weight lost to sweat during your workout session.
What To Drink
The age old question: What is better to drink during exercise, water or sports drink?
The answer: It depends! The level of intensity and duration of exercise, body composition goals, and personal preference (to a certain degree) dictate which beverage is the best choice for you. Most of the time, water is sufficient. A sports drink may be a better choice when exercising hard enough to sweat and breathe heavily for an hour or longer. This is because sports drinks contain electrolytes to replenish those lost in sweat and sugars to help fuel prolonged exercise.
Sports drinks are not made to replace all water throughout the day. Most sports drinks have as much sugar as a bottle of pop, which, while beneficial in small amounts during prolonged exercise, may sabotage body composition goals if an athlete is drinking multiple bottles a day. One other consideration is personal preference. If an athlete will not drink water, but will drink a sports drink, some form of hydration is always better than no fluid intake at all.
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